Scientists Under Attack

October 21, 2011Sectorby David Smith

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Is Monsanto Using Us As “Human Guinea Pigs”?
Is Monsanto Using Us As “Human Guinea Pigs”?

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The most famous incident involved Dr Arpad Pusztai, one of the world’s top researchers in his field of lectin proteins and a senior researcher at the prestigious Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland. When Dr Pusztai fed supposedly GM potatoes to rats, they developed potentially pre-cancerous cell growth, smaller brains, livers, and testicles, partially atrophied livers, and a damaged immune system.   

Dr Pusztai stated on TV: “If I had the choice I would certainly not eat it”, and that” “I find it’s very unfair to use our fellow citizens as guinea pigs”.

Two days later, his 35-year career at the Institute was ended amid persistent rumours of phone calls to the director from Downing Street. Dr Pusztai was silenced with threats of a lawsuit, but eventually, he was invited to speak before Parliament, his gag order lifted, and his research published in the prestigious Lancet.   

In Latin America, the research by the embryologist Andrés Carrasco, director of the Laboratory of Molecular Embryology, at the University of Buenos Aires, caused a similar rumpus. In 2010, he showed that Roundup, the Monsanto herbicide sold in conjunction with most GM crops, could cause defects in the brain, intestines, and hearts of amphibian fetuses. His research confirmed reports from peasants that they had suffered adverse health consequences. Later, a violent gang prevented him from giving a speech on his findings.

In an interview with GM Watch, Professor Carrasco said: “The findings in the lab are compatible with malformations observed in humans exposed to glyphosate during pregnancy. In spite of the evidence, they still tried to run down 30 years of my reputation as a scientist.

"They are hypocrites, lackeys of the big corporations, but they are afraid. They know they can’t cover up the sun with one hand. There is scientific proof and, above all, there are hundreds of affected towns which are living proof of this public health emergency... I have confirmed that glyphosate is devastating for amphibian embryos, even at doses far below those used in agriculture. This chemical causes many and varied types of malformations.”

Ohio State University plant ecologist Allison Snow was one many scientists to have their supply of seeds terminated. After she discovered problematic side effects in GM sunflowers, Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Dow AgroSciences blocked further research by withholding GM seeds and genes.

Marc Lappé and Britt Bailey suffered the same fate after they found significant reductions in cancer-fighting isoflavones in Monsanto’s GM soybeans. After publication, the seed seller, Hartz, told them they would no longer provide samples.

And when Hungarian Professor Bela Darvas discovered that Monsanto’s GM corn hurt endangered species in his country, Monsanto shut off his supplies. Dr Darvas later gave a speech on his preliminary findings and discovered that a false and incriminating report about his research was circulating. He traced it to a Monsanto public relations employee, who claimed it mysteriously appeared on her desk, so she faxed it out.

University of California Berkeley professor Ignacio Chapela was also the victim of a calculated attack. After his discovery that GM corn had contaminated crops in Mexico, he found himself denigrated all over the web. An investigation by the British newspaper The Guardian traced the viral abuse to two fictitious characters fabricated by Monsanto’s PR firm, who had posted inflammatory remarks on a listserv of scientists.

Professor Chapela, has claimed there is a de facto ban on scientists “asking certain questions and finding certain results”. He said: “It’s very hard for us to publish in this field. People are scared.”